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New York City Mayoral Race Signals Political Shift on Palestine and Israel - Leyla Doss

LEYLA DOSS, HOST: New York City’s democratic candidates for mayor will have their first official debate tonight. Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, the two frontrunners in that race, have both drawn criticism over their comments on the incidents unfolding between Israel and Palestine.

I’m joined today by Neil Kwatra, a democratic political strategist. He’s here to discuss the political calculus that happens when local candidates weigh in on international issues.

NEIL KWATRA: Voters are looking for a leader who is going to demonstrate, I think, some vision and some ability to lead the city forward through what will be, I think, a critical, you know, a few years of recovery. Public safety and crime are increasingly an issue.

LEYLA DOSS: And to add to that, you know, in terms of priorities, it seems like foreign policy and stances on things like Israel-Palestine have been a huge priority this year. In your opinion, why is it that we're talking more about Israel Palestine right now? Has the conversation changed as it relates to mayoral elections? Or has this always been an issue?

KWATRA: I mean, it’s always been an issue. But there is a unique, I think, historic relationship between New York City and Israel. But New York's also a changing, diverse place. And I think we have a large and significant Muslim population. These issues are increasingly, I think, more fraught and nuanced. Whereas in the past, I think you had a, much more, let's just call it, positioning, that often favoured Israel.

DOSS: And it seems like some of the more progressive candidates like Dianne Morales, for example, even took it a step further and publicly made statements calling what's happening in Palestine apartheid, which, symbolises a shift in the conversation. So do you think this also means a change in the voting bloc or why do you think that is?

KWATRA: I do think that Dianne, and her rhetoric around this issue and her positioning absolutely, unequivocally, reflects a particular point of view of a group of New Yorkers. It may not be a majority at this stage but I do think it is representative of a changing dynamic.

DOSS: Yeah, and on that note, do you think progressive candidates like Morales actually have a shot this time? I mean, it seems like there's a rise, like you said, of a progressive voting bloc.

KWATRA: There's definitely an animated and I think, increasingly organised, centre left progressive, you know, from the DSA, the Democratic Socialists of America. They’re still a minority, they are a vocal minority and a significant minority that can swing a primary election. And so I think they will unequivocally make their voices heard. I think the question is, will they coalesce around a candidate given that they have a few options?

DOSS: Mr. Neal Kwatra, democratic political strategist. Thank you so much for joining us today.

KWATRA: Thank you so much for inviting me, I appreciate it.

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